Conference Tournament Preview: Big Ten

Story posted March 14, 2013 in Sports, CommRadio by Mike Esse

A couple missed free throws and a missed tap in at the buzzer and Indiana stole the Big Ten regular season title outright from not only the team they beat in Michigan, but Michigan State and Ohio State as well.

As things move to Chicago today, literally anything could happen. The talk of college basketball all year long has been how dominant the Big Ten has been all year and nothing undermines that more than the fact that Indiana won the conference with four conference losses.

On top of that, Michigan, the No. 6 ranked team in the country has six conference losses and holds the five seed in the conference tournament. 

The Wolverines will start their Big Ten tournament action against Penn State today at 2:30 p.m., a team that upset them 84-78 on Feb. 27. After the Michigan loss to Indiana, one would think the Wolverines would come out and dominate for a full 40 minutes against the 10-20 Nittany Lions.

That could happen, but that’s exactly what we thought just a few weeks ago.

Michigan is certainly a team that oculd fall early, based on their inconsistency to finish games of late, but they aren’t the only Big Ten power that should be on upset alert this weekend. Everyone should be.

Nobody is safe, not even Tom Crean’s Hoosiers. Illinois and Iowa are two scary teams because they have to make a run if they want to be in the tournament come next week.

Minnesota and Illinois have the early game on BTN and either team is fit to make a run in this tournament because of their experienced leaders. The Gophers boast Trevor Mbakwe and Dre Hollins, while Jon Groce features DJ Richardson and Brandon Paul.

Both of those pairs are the reason why any team could make a run in the next few days. No team in the top eight or nine seeds in the conference lacks experienced star power. For one day, one or two stars could upset a team that on paper is the better team on the floor. 

We have seen that in almost every Big Ten upset so far this season.

The storylines after day one is complete are very interesting. Indiana will face either Minnesota or Illinois, the two team’s that had major upsets on their respective home floor’s against the Hoosiers.

Wisconsin awaits either Michigan or Penn State, the two teams they tied (and eventually beat) and beat on buzzer beating shots. Any sort of repeat of either game would provide some drama this weekend.

In the last game on Friday it is Michigan State and Iowa or Northwestern. Why is this intriguing? Simply because Michigan State always seems to make a run in the conference tournament under Tom Izzo. Iowa would need that win desperately and it would be the second time Michigan State would play Northwestern in less than a week. Either game could be a trap game for the inconsistent Spartans.

No matter what, come Sunday, even if the tournament ends up to be chalk and the one and two seeds are in the finals, expect the United Center to be filled with some drama, just as the Big Ten regular season was each and every week. 

Mike Esse is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and a ComRadio Sports Director. To contact him, email mje5164@gmail.com